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Gross misconduct hearing for Met Commander adjourns

Hearing into allegations of off duty drug taking opens and then adjourns until May in order to to review additional social media evidence

A Metropolitan Police commander who wrote the force’s current drug strategy is facing allegations of using drugs while off-duty.

Commander Julian Bennett is accused of taking cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms between February 2019 and 21 July 2020 while he was on holiday in France.

According to a gross misconduct hearing which started today, a photo sent via WhatsApp of cannabis on a table has been submitted as evidence.

Chairman James Tumbridge said he would be adjourning proceedings, which had been listed for five days from Monday, to May 23 later this year.

His decision came after Commander Bennett’s lawyers argued that the hearing would not be “fair” because they had not received all the WhatsApp messages, emails and SMSs they wanted, including a year’s worth from one of the witnesses.

Commander Bennett joined the Met in 1977 and wrote the MPS drug strategy for 2017-2021 as Commander for territorial policing. The document was called ‘Dealing with the impact of drugs on communities’, and set out plans to raise “awareness of the dangers of drug misuse”.

He also presided over 74 misconduct hearings concerning 90 officers between June 2010 and February 2012 resulting in 56 officers being dismissed, two of which were for drug misuse.

He was involved in Operation Bumblebee, an anti-burglary campaign, and headed Operation Venice which aimed at tackling crime and violence perpetrated by moped gangs.

He was also previously the central and south area commander.

In addition to drug misuse, he is accused of refusing to provide a drugs sample and falsely claiming that he had taken CBD for a medical reason on 21July 2020.

John Beggs, defending said: “Although we are all committed to getting this hearing on the way in the public interest, in the interest of the Metropolitan Police Service and in the interest of Mr Bennett, fairness must trump disposition.”

Mr Beggs said the witness may have “cherry picked” the messages that had been disclosed.

Mark Ley-Morgan QC, representing the Met argued, however, that they have provided all the relevant material.

Commander Bennett has been suspended on full pay since July 2021, pending the investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s directorate of professional standards.

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